It’s excruciating to admit but sheer popularity can really take one so far in this country’s politics. No Philippine politician can deny this. In fact, they know all too well that the more the campaign advertisements, the higher the ratings in popularity surveys. It matters little if one is accused of being immoral or corrupt, as clearly demonstrated by Joseph Estrada and Jejomar Binay who, after having been tainted with all sorts of accusations and extensively maligned in the media, still command considerable public approval.
It’s no wonder politicians scramble to get to the campaign trail prematurely despite particular rules set by the Comelec against excessive campaigning. Many of them have become so shamelessly blatant that they don’t even mind risking to violate the imposed cap on TV commercials, if only to be noticed more. It’s actually become common practice for politicians to assume airs and graces during election time and act like benevolent monarchs granting the wishes of their royal subjects. It’s also become somewhat a tradition for politicians to plaster their images and names on public projects, as if the tax money they spent on these came from their own pockets. Publicity is the key to winning elections, and they're all aware of this. In fact, what is known to all is publicity, good or bad, can pretty much be all it takes to win in an election. Around here, for as long as you are popular, you can have a successful political career.
But how can even a plunderer or a hoodlum be recycled into the popularity race after fatal blows to their political careers?Why don't traditional politicians die out like the characters of Game of Thrones?
We tend to underrate the appalling truth behind the need for election candidates to have their own people guard their votes. While many may pretend and say another thing, the open secret here is that our elections are not credible. Even our politicians believe that.
Are we so quick to forget how Diosdado Macapagal’s daughter Gloria, with her infamous “Hello, Garci Scandal”, painted a clear and plain picture of how extensively electoral fraud and electoral sabotage can become while calculatingly perpetrated by an incumbent power? She still faces charges related to that event, up to this day.
In this warped and malignant system that is reinforced by our society’s elite, you can be president if you’re popular, whether or not you have the integrity and capability to be in that office. Our Constitution mandates the government to maintain honesty and integrity in the public service and take positive and effective measures against graft and corruption. Yet, the Commission on Elections seem unable to discern candidate material from convicted plunders and rapists, and people with pending criminal cases, as well as those tagged in immoral fiascos that just faded away with whitewash. This can’t possibly be what the Filipino people want, for the main reason that this can’t possibly be good.
When corrupt politicians, ousted in the past by people’s revolutions, are recycled back into the political arena, in the position to deceive the public once again, it certainly isn’t because the Filipino people simply forgave them and decided to trust them again to lead. And as much as politician-actors like Erap and Bong Revilla would like to believe otherwise, loyalists and fans who keep on voting for corrupt but popular personalities do not comprise the majority of citizens who, of course, would prefer a better nation than to be thanked with a smile by useless idols.
There is no way an exasperated citizenry, long despairing for a better, more responsible and noble government, will be comforted by empty promises and meaningless fanfare. The poor who despair everyday because of lack of opportunities to rise from poverty and live decent lives; the laborers who are denied higher wages and turned into slaves by a silent agreement between the government officials and exploitive capitalists; the youth who are forced to stop schooling because the government has made it quite impossible for them to cope with the expenses of education; the homeless who’ve had their dwellings demolished by police acting in the interest of real estate tycoons; the victims of a whole gamut of human rights violations who are mercilessly denied justice; the sick and dying who have lost all hope because of healthcare they could not afford; and the farmers who are refused farmlands to till because of an ineffective agrarian reform program that's purposefully left speckled with loopholes for land-grabbing oligarchs to abuse; and migrant workers who sacrifice life with family, away from heir motherland, to labor abroad and earn dollars for the country, only to be generally ignored and abandoned by their own government in times of need—these who comprise the true majority of the Philippine population will certainly not waste the sacred chance to correct what is fundamentally wrong with our government and vote unthinkingly every election time.
For the past three decades, the majority of Filipinos have been electing the biggest names and most familiar faces, the so-called traditional politicians or trapos, who really have nothing to show in the areas of trustworthiness, good governance and honorable public service. As a result, we have been having the worst leaders ever.
Is it possible that we are so dense a people that we’ll keep putting the same bad leaders in government? Is there no realisation on the part of the masses after bad leaders are exposed with their misdeeds? Is there no rule banning tainted and corrupt politicians from public office?
Surely most, if not all of us, must have learned by now that a popular leader isn’t necessarily a good one, and that a famous name has little bearing on the way votes go, if the electorate sincerely wants progress for this nation. Unless we are a nation of mostly idiots, or we are all insane, it’s highly unbelievable that the majority still opt to vote for popular personalities who could never be truly honorable statesmen. After seeing consecutive presidencies plunge to messy scandals that detail some greedy acts of plunder, all of which by the way were poorly resolved and somewhat made to be forgotten, it ought to be time to reevaluate what trapos believe is the reason why they are still popular: that the people love them. And it's simply improbably that only a few have noticed the mischief and humbuggery that's taken over the country when these have been unmistakable and blaring implications of a continuing kleptocracy that has already exacerbated to a great magnitude. No, the Filipinos' love for corrupt and bad leaders is not a sensible explanation why despite such dire need for a good government, we still elect the same stupid brood of people who deceive us and just couldn't keep their hands of the cookie jar. Why this happens again and again is because of malfunctioning system that persists to be in use even as it proves to be nothing but an outlandish circus meant to showcase only evil clowns.
It is the corrupt elite, and not the uneducated masses, that own the blame for our poor options every election time. With nothing to show but a fanciful parade embellished with lies and false promises, they managed to narrow things down to a popularity contest. But beyond the frenzy around political campaigns, poll ratings and confetti, elections in the Philippines only legitimises the great sabotage of the Filipino’s right to suffrage. They are not really the windows of opportunity for us to improve our country’s situation, but a pointless exercise to glorify a sham. Thieves disguised as public servants make sure our elections follow such a design.
Rather than pinning our hopes on “recycled” corrupt politicians, it’s more likely that the Filipino people will choose new faces, like 2010 presidentiable Nicanor Perlas, who is far more qualified to be president than any trapo out there, being the winner of The Outstanding Filipino Award and the Alternative Nobel Prize for his accomplishments in the field of agriculture and the environment. But what did the weirdos at COMELEC (Commission On Elections) do? They deemed Perlas as a nuisance candidate and outright disqualified him from the presidential race. They had no problem allowing a convicted plunderer ex-president to run for president again, but they simply had to block from the leadership one of the most brilliant minds of our time. What a classic example of how a few stupid men so casually destroy our chances for a better government, by restricting the candidates for leadership to a crappy selection of corrupt oligarchs!
1,290 respectable individuals from 44 different countries launched a historical global protest and a petition urging the Comelec to reinstate Perlas as a presidential candidate, claiming he is the most promising of them all, even comparing him to Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel and Al Gore in terms of how his leadership will benefit, not only the country but the world. Signatories of intellectuals from Germany, the U.S., France, South Africa, Canada, the U.K., and Sweden came with messages that scolded the Comelec for acting so dumb, and begged for more rationality. Some messages were stronger.
Michael Schreyer of Germany warned what would happen to the country’s reputation if Perlas is disqualified and said. “The Comelec decision is for people in democratic countries totally not understandable. Comelec should change their decision as soon as possible otherwise I can not see Philippines as a democracy”. Also from Germany, Thomas Autenrieth told the Comelec not to interfere with the people’s rights to choose their own candidate, and not to “de-democratize” the Philippines. “Let the people decide and don’t decide for them”, he said. Laura Langford Schnur of the U.S. said that the Comelec’s disqualification of Perlas was “a blatant announcement to the world of corruption in the existing traditional political establishment!” If people all over the world can see how our democracy can be sabotaged by just one ruling by the Comelec, why can’t we?
Nick Perlas was eventually allowed by the Comelec to run for president in the 2010 elections, but having spent most of his time proving his worth—through petitions and supporting papers detailing his projects and even his platform which none of the other candidates even had—he was way behind the campaign trail...too disrupted to catch up in the race, his name too associated with the nuisance tag the Comelec had branded him, and his resources too scattered to mount a successful rally. But it was not too late for him to impart yet another matter of enlightenment for us Filipinos to scrutinise. One month before the Philippines began the first automated local and national elections, Perlas petitioned for the Comelec to postpone the polls for 90 days, citing irregularities that indicate not everything is set for the elections to take place. The Comelec did not heed Perlas’ warning, which tainted the constitutional commission all the more with the dark colors of suspicion.
Contrary to the Comelec’s propaganda that it was successful and relatively “clean”, the 2010 elections was marred by cheating and fraud. PCOS (Precinct Count Optical Scanners) machines malfunctioned in poll centers across the nation, for which the Comelec resorted to conducting an improvised, less secure manual count, thus compromising the sanctity of a considerable percentage of the ballots. There was also a clear and undeniable case of mass disenfranchisement of voters which the Comelec simply downplayed. Independent analysts have estimated the extent of the disenfranchisement at 30% of the electorate, which is significant enough to reflect false election winners. The way things went actually just showed that if you have such crooks in government, the corrupt will keep on winning elections even if nobody votes.
It’s already enough to suspect, without being too illogical, that something is wrong when we elect the same sets of bad leaders every time. But to be deliberately limited in our choices for leaders by the same set of people who've been pillaging this country or done nothing spectacular to progress this nation, one can reasonably say that the majority of Filipinos do not control the political and governmental situations and thus have no capability for self-determination. Moreover, it's become quite evident how this country is wholly dominated by a few political dynasties that have cleverly cornered the market share of power. How, then, can this be a democracy?
Because their very legitimacy depends on the majority rule, most traditional politicians will not concede to the actuality that their mandates are not truly derived from the majority but rather from the minority who are in control of a system which many presume is a genuine democracy but in truth only mimics one. What we have is a fake democracy in all its sense. If there'd ever be one in the world, this system that we have in the Philippines is it.
It was not the majority of Filipinos who pardoned Erap only about two months after he was convicted, but just one president whose motive in doing so is very questionable. And it is only by the much-inclined discretion of the Comelec commissioner and the strange interpretation of the law by a handful of Supreme Court magistrates that an ex-president convicted of plunder is permitted to run for the presidency again, as most Filipinos will certainly not agree with the lunacy that lets the same person fool the nation twice, much more rob the nation twice.
Constitutional safeguards put in place to protect the sanctity of our democracy, like the Anti-Dynasty provision purposed precisely to effect fairness in the opportunity to be in government, have been completely ignored. No anti-dynasty bill had been passed in Congress for 28 years now. Dynasties, therefore, have proliferated and greatly restricted our choices for leaders and our chances for good government. Hundreds of congressmen couldn't have simply forgotten about the Anti-Dynasty provision in the Constitution for so long. The reason given for this, that they could not agree on a concrete definition of the term "dynasty", is also not likely to be true. And it is not by sheer coincidence that the most dominant members of Congress are members of political dynasties?
This is a country with a unique system of alternating monarchies but then is ingeniously clothed like a democratic nation.